How often do you get a chance to finish something at the site where it all began? These types of moments rarely come around for the usual but The Miami FC have proven to anything but usual this season. Miami returns to Cary, N.C. with a chance to clinch the NASL Spring Season title against North Carolina FC.
Let’s take you back to that beautiful Saturday night when Miami opened their campaign and found a point with one of the most NASL-style goals we’ve seen in recent history. North Carolina took the early lead with a third-minute goal from Matt Fondy. Less than ten minutes later Miami would find their equalizer. Dylan Mares found a streaking Kwadwo Poku, who was challenged by NCFC goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre. Stefano Pinho found the loose ball (this was a bit of foreshadowing I guess), and blasted it … into the back of Poku who somehow found the ball and put it in the back of the net. We told you, this was very NASL-y. Miami would walk away with a point in the opening tilt.
If we were to take the Remote from that Adam Sandler movie and fast forward 28 days, Miami would begin its impressive ongoing run of 14 consecutive unbeaten with a 95th-minute Robert Baggio Kcira equalizer to steal a point at home from NCFC. After that goal, Miami’s recent form column looks like one of a terrible college student but a marvelous football team.
So lets jump out of the time machine and focus on the Independence Day match that we have at hand. Miami will put their 14-game winning streak on the line to secure entry into the NASL playoffs. The Blues will be without their star Kwawdo Poku, who is serving a one-game suspension for a red card issued in the fixture against the New York Cosmos on June 24. Nesta has stated that Ariel Martinez will start this match, only time will tell if Ariel will play in the same role as Poku.
North Carolina is looking to do all they can to have a puncher’s chance at the combined table entry to the playoffs. Sitting in 5th (5 back of NYC), they have only collected 1 point in their last five league matches. Don’t sleep on the boys from Cary, as their unit has enough firepower to put goals on the scoreboard. Their recent form could easily be attributed to a stretch of bad luck, as players such as Nazmi Albadawi are only converting five percent of their shots. The blueprint for beating this Miami team may have been exposed as the Cosmos and Atlanta United were able to play extremely physical and keep a high press for a significant portion of the match. If NCFC has these tactics in mind, don’t be surprised if Miami comes out of the gates faltering.
Miami will look to be offensively minded against Sylvestre who is currently the league leader in goals allowed and total saves. This shows the key to match — Miami must keep their foot on the gas and create havoc on North Carolina’s backline. I don’t believe NCFC’s defense will be capable to withstand such a high line and keep Miami penned in. Two early goals for Miami against a shaky backline in North Carolina could very well allow Miami some much needed rest this weekend.